As those who read my Sunday post will know, I had my first 1-2-1 Portuguese lesson with my new teacher Teresa on Monday night. And it all started off in the worst possible way.
I don’t know her part of town very well, so I asked the bus driver to alert me when I needed to get off. It’s about a 15-minute ride. I reminded him once half-way. It was not busy on the bus. I was sitting in the first row behind him to the far right, so I was somewhere in his peripheral vision. And he forgot about me. He seemed embarrassed, but did not apologise.
So, I stomped off the bus in a huff and trudged back about three stops, only to discover that I’d taken the wrong map with me which didn’t cover that part of town. Ahrgh! There were plenty of people about, though, and by asking for directions, I found the right street without much trouble. Because I’d left home very early, so I was still good for time and not overly stressed at that point.
…until I realised that I’d left my diary with Teresa’s address and phone number at home. I remembered the house number, but it was a block of flats the size of the Forbidden City and with about as many entrances as an African termite mound. The thought that I was languishing right outside her apartment, and that she was waiting for me somewhere upstairs was vexatious, to say the least. It was one of those rare moments when I wished I had Wassapp…
There was a language school directly opposite, and it appeared to be open. All flustered and with my glasses steamed up, I stumbled in, and explained my pathetic situation to the woman at reception, asking if I could use her computer to access my email.
Not only was she happy to help me out, but she also offered me a job teaching English.
What cruel irony, I thought, that in a country with an unemployment rate of over 25% (and 56% youth unemployment!) somebody like me, by the sole virtue of being a foreigner (with the “right” skin and hair colour, I presume) can just walk into a school at random, all frazzled and really NOT at her best, and be offered a job they’re not even qualified for. I should mention that, at this point, she’d not heard a word of English out of me. When I told her I was German, her eyes grew even wider, as “there were no German teachers in Toledo” and she was overrun with enquiries.
Anyway, by this time, I’d actually managed to get hold of my teacher – phew! – so I took the school’s card (just in case) and dashed back across the road.
The lesson itself was great. Insanely painful, yes, but great. I’ve written before about how much I detest language classes. To say that I’m a reluctant speaker is putting it mildly. Every fibre and neuron in my body seizes up, my mush brain goes blank, I get into a strop with myself, and then I switch off and let the others get on with it. In a 1-2-1 setting, though, chickening out doesn’t really work, you’ve just got to push through it.
As anticipated, I was struggling with accent issues, as Teresa’s from Lisbon and so far I’d been studying Brazilian Portuguese. I was relieved I understood a fair amount of what she was saying, and that I was able to respond. Well, sort of.
I found that thanks to playing that silly Duolingo, I actually had some vocab to toss into my incoherent bleatings. Also, seeing as Portugal is so close, literally just down the river from me, it would be a crying shame if, after putting in all this effort, I couldn’t couldn’t communicate with my immediate neighbours. I’m more likely to make frequent trips to Portugal than Brazil. They’ve got good cakes there, I’ve been told 😉
So, the upshot is that I’m very excited about my fresh start with Portuguese. I’m thrilled about actually having spoken some Portuguese (entire sentences, even!) to a native speaker, and I’ll be back there next Monday.